M.E: Whey hey! Hiya, MJ, me old mucker. How are you this wet, horrible day? Is it even wet in your corner of the UK?
MJ: Helloooo me old china! [China plate = mate. Speakers of US English may find the subtitled version of this broadcast helpful.] I’m well, thanks, and thank you for having me here today. It is indeed cold and wet in Cornwall, though it’s hard to tell, as our natural weather for about nine months of the year is mizzle: not quite mist, but not quite drizzle. It’s all very atmospheric.
M.E: LMAO @ subtitled version. Mizzle—nice word. Almost like if you combine piddle and sozzled and, when you pee yourself when out drunk, you can say, “Eeee by gum, I’ve just pizzled myself!” Or not. Ahem.
MJ: You could indeed. Or, in my local, which is frequented by dairy farmers in flat caps and other odd folk, you could say, “Oo-arrgh m’snarrf hic, varrrghhh!” You can’t move in Cornish villages of a Saturday night for tipsy rural types being taken home in wheelbarrows. And to think we Brits have a dodgy reputation for booze.
M.E: LOL @ other odd folk.
This question is one I’ve always wanted to ask m/m authors but never had the balls, so to speak. (I’m glad I haven’t got balls literally because they’d hang down and chafe, I’m sure. How do men put up with them there?) Anyway, the question is, why do you write about man love? What is it that makes a woman choose m/m as their genre?
MJ: It’s things like sitting down and riding bicycles I’ve always wondered about. I mean, I think it’s why men can’t multi-task. A little part of them is always worried about making sure the happy sacks aren’t in immediate danger of being crushed, chafed or…. Ahem.
M.E: Indeed. Imaging getting those little ball bags pinched in something. Like your zip. Or, what if you were a house-proud male and you decided to do the housework in the noddy (nude)? With our UK front-loading washing machines, you could have quite an accident.
MJ: Yeeowch! I do know a bloke who tried to cook a romantic Valentine’s Day breakfast for his significant other, neglected to put a pinny on and, um, burned his sausage. Such are the tribulations of manhood, I suppose. It’s enough to put you off fry-ups for life.
MJ: Um. Where were we? Oh, yes. Speaking of sausages. Why do I write m/m? The most basic answer, and the truest one in the case of Breaking Faith, is that’s just how the characters turned out. Rather like life, really. I write across a range of genres, and my characters always start out in my head as three-dimensional people (I do have other friends. Honest!), so their orientation is a key part of them, but not always something that defines them. In a book like Breaking Faith, where the love story is central to the plot, there’s scope for the developing romance between the characters to reveal so much more: Brett’s self-discovery of his identity as a gay man, Tommy’s acceptance of Brett’s love and the way they deal with their relationship in the face of the circumstances that unfold.
As to the issue of women writers in general dealing with m/m romance and erotica, it’s a can o’ worms, but an interesting one. I think there’s often an element of the same attitude that sees male audiences very eager to consume lipstick lesbian encounters—double the fun, with none of the comparing yourself to the man/woman in the scene and coming up short. There’s also the plain and basic fact that the male body, and masculinity, are beautiful. And two men will often express that better in writing than a female point of view.
However, for me, there’s also the fact that I love writing from different viewpoints and, maybe because I’m a bit of a geezer-bird, I often favour a male perspective in characters. [Hawks and spits her chewing tobacco and adjusts the straps of her denim dungarees.]
M.E: Aaaaaaaaaahahahahahha! I’m a geezer bird too. No wonder we get along so well. [Farts loudly.]
As you know, your novel, Breaking Faith converted me from one who shied away from reading m/m into one who would consider reading it again if it wasn’t overpowered by explicit sex scenes. I loved BF so much that I still think about it every so often. What I enjoy most about your work is that you always put ‘hidden’ things in there that mean so much more than the actual words and are linked to the scene they appear in. Do you plan where you will insert those wonderful lines, or do they just occur as you write?
MJ: A-ha-haaaa…you’re so converted. There’s a funny handshake you have to learn next, you know. It goes like…this…where’s the Crisco?
Seriously, I’m so flattered. I have to go through doors sideways now.
Uhm…hard question. I think probably they happen as I write, because I get involved in the scene, how it’s all coming together and how the characters react. I know if I’m feeling particularly down, or particularly good, I’ll notice different things about my environment, or simple everyday things will take on an additional layer of meaning. Who hasn’t noticed that it’s raining when they feel really crap and decided it’s thoroughly appropriate? I find it’s also a really good way of avoiding info dumps in a story—if I can build the atmosphere and draw the reader in to the point where they experience it with me and my characters, I’ve succeeded.
Hey, it’s my world. But you’re all invited.
M.E: It’s now confession time. Whose willies appear in your books, and do they know their manparts are used in such a manner?
MJ: Ohhhhh dear…! I never kiss and tell. Well, not much. And besides, if I told them their old chaps would turn up in a novel, d’you think they’d let me take the Polaroids, much less sign the waivers? Ahem. I mean…. My characters are entirely fictitious and bear no similarity to any person living or dead.
No, really. If they’re based on anyone, they’re amalgams of different people. I think all writers do this. It’s why people avoid our company…they’re scared of seeing what we do to them on the page.
M.E: I agree. Now I’m picturing the different parts of different men’s willies all made into one winkle. This is seriously disturbing my chaka khan.
What other genres are you interested in exploring?
MJ: I never say no a potential idea when it turns up at three in the morning with a bindle on a stick and unpacks itself into my brain. Some of the projects I’m working on at the moment include paranormal and fairly high fantasy elements. Fantasy’s always something I’ve wanted to try, since reading Tolkien as a child, and I love the open-ended possibilities of sci-fi. I’d also like to try my hand at crime, which would be really interesting. I’m a big fan of those kinds of puzzles, and I’m not averse to the odd murder either, so….
Um. Writing crime. Yes. That’s it. Writing about it. Not anything else.
M.E: Yes. Quite…. [Sidles away from M.K. with the tune I Feel For You in her head. Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan….]
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
MJ: Ugh. Quite probably forgetting the name of a poem I’d written while doing a live radio interview about it. Oh, the shame! I like to think I covered well, and I was prompted during commercial. Phew!
M.E: Ooooh! Good job it was on the radio. No one can see your blushes then!
What’s the grossest thing you’ve ever seen? Come on, make me heave!
MJ: The gross things I encounter are usually to do with animals. I fostered a litter of emaciated feral puppies a couple of years ago. They had the worst infestation of tapeworm I’ve ever seen. After dosing them with wormer, I went out to do poopy patrol with my trusty scooper, picked up a turd and—I kid you not—a tapeworm thicker than a pencil waved at me from the poo. I swear it was smiling. And still alive. I screamed like a girl.
So, either that, or the time the neighbour’s brain-damaged tabby cat I was looking after ate a vole and threw it back up in my hair. The Barnet [Barnet Fair = hair] is long, naturally very curly and extremely thick…. Let’s just say I decided it was time for a trim.
M.E: OMG, I can’t breathe for laughing here. You poor woman!
Have you ever been so scared you thought you’d poop your Gok Gwon knickers? Assuming you wear Granny Pants at all! If you don’t wear them, you are forced to admit what your underwear preference is as well as answering the question. I have a lightsaber and I’m not afraid to use it!
MJ: Eek! Get that thing away from me! I need both hands to type! Bend to the Dark Side I will not. Neither are you my father. Probably.
I do indeed wear Granny Pants. I thought everyone did, though this doesn’t explain why I recently saw an advert for sanitary towels that will fit into thongs. Surely this is just asking for trouble.
Aaaanyway, the answer to this one is probably when I was fifteen, being arrested on a school trip to Germany. I was (falsely, I hasten to add) accused of shoplifting a lipstick in a department store and—having been chased down the street by two German store detectives in leather jackets screaming “Lipstick! Lipstick!”, to which I initially replied “Get your own” before realising what they wanted—was remanded, with a group of friends from the same school party, to a dark, windowless basement office.
MJ: After the first couple of hours, we realised our high school German (“Where is the swimming pool? My hair is brown” etc) was woefully inadequate, when what we needed to say was “I am innocent. Take me to the British Embassy.” We got out by sheer luck. A friend saw us being carted off and ran to fetch our German teacher from the local bier keller. After a few minutes’ of conversation, he ascertained that not only had the detectives NOT seen us take anything on the security cameras, the store didn’t actually HAVE security cameras. Believe me, learning to swear in a foreign language is always an advantage. But not as much of one as learning important key phrases concerning your embassy and the need for a lawyer.
M.E: I have a neighbour who grew up in Germany. She said Pimmlekopf or something is a rude word.
MJ: It is indeed, kopf being “head” and pimmel being “willy”.
M.E: Giggles at willy head.
MJ: Other useful things I discovered in Germany include the fact that it was really hard for German teenagers to pronounce the word “arse”, and that there really is a family—famous in the automobile trade—who have a four letter surname beginning with F and ending in K, and emblazoned it down the side of their factory in massive red letters. Heh. I also discovered cranberry-flavoured vodka at two marks a bottle. But that’s another story.
M.E: What’s your favourite sandwich filling?
MJ: I’m a sucker for the illicit pleasure of a bacon butty [A particular type of sandwich which must, by UK law, be made with thick white bread, huge slices of fried bacon and lashings of HP sauce, a historic spicy English condiment] in my normally fairly vegetarian diet, but failing that chicken mayo and toasted cheese can duke it out, preferably with some of that knobbly French mustard and some crisp lettuce. Yum.
M.E: You know what mine is—2 pieces of toast, 1 with peanut butter, the other with chocolate spread, squashed together. Lovely!
MJ: Fake Snickers toast! Whee! I have to confess, chocolate spread in this house only ever leaves the jar on a spoon. (Burp.)
M.E: What’s your worst habit? If you tell me yours, I’ll tell you all mine. Yeah, I have many. All gross.
MJ: Me? Bad habits? Aside from burping and farting contests, gurning while I’m thinking and singing the Marseilles in my sleep? (Don’t even ask about this one. No one knows why it happens.) Never. I’m the very pinnacle of ladylike behaviour; a veritable English Rose.
’Scuse me. Um. I’ll get me coat.
M.E: Oh, I knew we were kindred spirits. I also fart. That’s an awful confession. I’ve been known to drink Dr. Pepper (makes the loudest burps, don’t you know?) and belch swear words. I pick my nose. I’m terribly sorry. I’ll get my coat too. Oh, by the way…thank you so much for taking part today. My ribs hurt now.